Monday, August 27, 2012

Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick, by Jennifer Holm (ages 10 - 13)

The transition to a new school year is always tricky. Kids juggle their excitement and anxiety as they think about what the new year is going to be like. Will they make new friends? Will their old friends still like them? Will they get good teachers this year? Will the homework be awful? Will they even figure out where to go? The questions go on and on.

Many tween girls love reading realistic fiction because it gives them a chance to look at all the social situations they deal with on a daily basis. If you know a tween who is just a wee-bit anxious about school this year, I think they'll really enjoy Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick. Ginny's story of the ups and downs of her eighth grade year will make them smile and cringe. But best of all, kids will really be drawn to Jennifer Holm and Elicia Castaldi's visual scrapbook approach, telling Ginny's story through the stuff all around her.
Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick
Ginny Davis's Year in Stuff
by Jennifer L. Holm
illustrated by Elicia Castaldi
NY: Random House, 2012
ages 10 - 13
available from your local library and on Amazon
Ginny's life is full of notes and messages: doodles to friends, to-do lists, text messages, refrigerator notes from "The Management"(aka her mom), angry notes pinned to her door (stay out!) and teachers' notes on her homework assignments. Stuff surrounds her every day - her cell phone, her backpack, school supplies, lunches, even worms to dissect in the science lab. Holm and Castaldi show all this through a photo-collage that makes reading this book like peeking into someone's personal scrapbook or diary - the stuff of their life.

Ginny's excited about the beginning of the new school year. She's just moved into a new, bigger house with her mom and step-dad. The beginning of the year goes pretty well. She likes her new science lab partner. She makes the cheerleading team. She even starts to fall in love (one of the big items on her "to do"list). But life throws curve balls, as every tween knows. Ginny's mom announces that she's pregnant; but it's when her step-dad loses his job a week before Christmas that everything starts to turn upside down.

The visual storytelling will hook kids from the very beginning. Holm has created an authentic voice with Ginny. Her poems read like a kid trying to do an assignment, just to get it done. Kids will relate to Ginny's struggles at home and at school. But most of all, they will love having to figure out the story through all the clues. There isn't a straightforward narrative. You have to infer at each step of the way to fill in the missing pieces. And they will love seeing so many familiar parts of their own life in Ginny's stuff.

Ginny is not a kid prone to reflecting on the intricacies of her life. On first read, this might seem like this story stays on the surface of Ginny's life. But there are big issues sandwiched between the text messages and homework assignments. Ginny wrestles with issues many kids see around them - relationships, job loss, stomach pains, family changes. The visual nature of the story and Ginny's authentic voice let kids read between the lines, thinking about how these changes are affecting Ginny more deeply than she always lets on.

If you think your tween might like Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick, check out Ginny's first story: Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf, Holm's and Castaldi's first collaboration. Although this new book is a sequel, continuing Ginny's story, I found that stood alone comfortably.

Here's a video that Elicia Castaldi, the amazing illustrator, put together to show behind the scenes of making Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick. Very fun peak into the artist's studio!

Check out these other reviews:
All illustrations are copyright ©Elicia Castaldi, 2012, kindly shared by Random House. The review copy was sent by the publishers, Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. VERY cool looking! And how could we go wrong with Jennifer Holm? :)


  2. I need more articles and blogs please post soon.
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